Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egypt.




I must definitely be living under some kind of rock, because I just really realized the gravity of the situation in Egypt. It has rocked my entire world and left me in tears as I have a very special connection with that very special country. No other place on our planet has ever affected me in the profound ways that Egypt has and continues to. Besides Canada, Egypt is the first country that I really spent time in outside United States. Here's how it came about.

In 2005 I was on a mission to leave USA and see and live in other areas of the world. As the dreams became plans, I signed up to take an English teaching course in the great city of Alexandria. As I searched the various locations to take the course, Alexandria stood out as one of the more obscure, thus sparking my interest. I chose to go to Egypt for the course in lieu of more comfortable and obvious options offered in Europe. That and the course in Egypt included a trip to the pyramids and one to a resort on the Red Sea after completion of the course. Free stuff, no problem.

I prepared for months to go to Egypt with no plans on if or when I would return to United States. I would take my English teaching course, travel to other areas in the Middle East, and then pursue a life in Africa. I left in February 2006 and immediately upon arrival knew I was totally in for a life changing adventure. Cairo is the first place I saw police and guards at the airport with rifles. The intensity of things I was seeing had certainly never before been matched in the well developed nation where I am from. Homeless children, donkey carts and chickens in the streets, the most amazingly bad traffic imaginable, the mosques, the staring(holy shit, the staring),the call to prayer, the population density, the air pollution, and on and on. . . Over the next two months, I would go through a metamorphosis.

I spent the first month in Alexandria taking my English course. I lived in the apartment provided by the school with my classmate Nicki, and learned how to shower in a third-world shower that spit scalding water and steam in place of anything I had ever known to come from a shower head. I made many Egyptian friends(mostly men obviously), and even went on some Egyptian dates. Perfect strangers opened their homes to me to enjoy food they could barely afford. I hung out until late at night in hookah cafés, and walking the streets and alley ways with friends and classmates. I explored my neighborhood and the sights of Alexandria, stood by the Mediterranean Sea and watched the fishermen cast their poles into the sunset, marveling at life. I battled intense culture shock that drove me to tears and had to learn how to walk away from beggars and homeless, because I could easily give all my money away in a single day. And I got stared at everywhere I went.

One weekend off of class, Nicki and I went to Cairo with our guide Mohammed and did the Pyramids and Museum of Antiquities. This day I will never, ever, ever forget. The Pyramids of Giza are a force to be reckoned with. And being that we went on a Friday, the Muslim holy day, we got to share the experience with many Egyptians. Being the proper tourists, we even did the camel ride into the desert for the postcard view of the Pyramids. At the museum, I got to stare King Tut's gold mask in the face and have yet to be broken of the hypnotism it produced.

After my course ended and I survived the intense curriculum, teaching six classes to Egyptian students big and small, old and young, we were off to the Red Sea for some relaxation. Four days at perhaps one of the most pristine bodies of water this earth houses, snorkeling at world class reefs and enjoying Egyptian culture in the gorgeous desert of the Sinai peninsula. When this trip was over, my classmates and I parted ways and I began to travel Egypt by myself.

During the next few weeks I traveled to some oases in the far deserts of Egypt. I spent time in an oasis named Siwa, more disconnected from the world than anywhere I had previously known. I stayed in the most charming inn on the edge of town where no electricity ran and the nights were lit by candles and the views of the dunes in the distance illuminated by the full moon. I wore a head scarf out of respect and to help reduce the staring in the very small and conservative village. One afternoon, I met a young Egyptian boy whom let me through the mud brick ruins that were the center of town. We weaved our way up and through the labyrinth and finally ended up on top of a small mountain that provided a 360 unmatched in this lifetime. Views of the Great Sand Sea to the south, the canyons and salt lake to the west, the palm tree groves in every direction and the Siwa village at my feet. The Sahara had me.

At another oasis, I took an overnight safari into the White Desert of Egypt. An otherworldly place, the White Desert is an expanse of desert with strange, wind eroded white sandstone formations and outcroppings, some as small as a cat, and some as huge as a house. Waking up in the middle of the night to pee was a special moment as the white stone was lit up in moonlight and the stars were nearly as blinding.

I ultimately stayed in Egypt for only two months. Against all desire of mine, I returned to United States to deal with a nagging medical problem. However, this time was more than enough to completely turn my world upside down. In two months, I saw and felt and experienced things I could never have dreamed. I came to love the Egyptian people and their beautiful culture totally. I had stepped outside myself and had stretched my world to new horizons from which I can never return.

I have since returned to Egypt, and will again. However, in the face of the current political turmoil that has gripped the country, I feel an overwhelming sense of loss and devastation. I have close friends in Egypt whose communication has been cut and I honestly fear the future of the country. However, through my tears and sadness at the loss of the Egypt I once knew and once embraced me, I am reminded that Egyptian culture has been around for longer than almost any that human kind has known. Egypt will not disappear, it will only add to its long and colorful history where the corner of Africa meets Asia.

Egypt changed me more profoundly than any other place. I am who I am today because of my experiences in Egypt and my life's path has been greatly determined because of my time there. My heart is with the Egyptian people as they face a great transition, inshallah to a better life and greater prosperity free from corruption and in the best interest of the people. Allahu akhbar.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What you see is what you get.

I've been lame on ideas for writing, so I'm going to resort to photos from my life. Above, country road in Idaho, July 2010.
Cathedral in main Zócalo in Mexico City, Mexico, April 2010.
Fake cocaine, or is it? Bogotá, Colombia, March 2010.
Super good graf. Bogotá, Colombia, January 2010.
And finally, the sunny and gorgeous Santa Monica, California, United States, January 2011. Life is great!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

boooooo!

There is no photo necessary to describe the absolute crap weather that Los Angeles has.
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I seem to be able to go nowhere to escape the cold, even southern California is desperately disappointing. Since I have arrived one month ago, it has managed to be in the 70's only a couple of times and has rained probably half of the days I have been here, including one time where it rained for a week straight.
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What have I done?!?!?! And as many of you are thinking me a whiner, I don't care. It's cold here and everyone else here can confirm. Even as I write this, it's about 40 degrees and is raining. I don't know where Los Angeles got this fabulous paradise-like reputation, but I am now disconfirming any and all rumors that this place has perfect weather. So before any of you are thinking about coming here to escape the cold, let me tell you, you won't escape it here. Go to Brazil or something, I'll meet you there.
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Another thing I have had enough of is people here telling me that this weather isn't normal for here. "Normally it's nicer than this", "Normally we don't get this much rain", etc, etc. It doesn't matter what's normal or not, I'm freezing ass and can't ride my bike anywhere! I am actually sitting in my freezing house right now under my borrowed and life-saving electric blanket, my outfit including, but not limited to, leg warmers, a jacket with hood on my head, and a scarf among other items of clothing. It's like I didn't even leave Colorado, being in a frozen house is just like my mom's.
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With all the rain and cold temps, the Los Angeleans have also been mentioning the snow on the eastern mountains. I have been asked if I have seen the snow on the mountains by a few people. I want to slap them and be like "Why in the hell would I want to see snow when I live a mile from Venice Beach?!". Idiots! I am from Colorado and I have seen snow on mountains my entire life. Snow is no novelty to me and if I wanted to see it, I'd look up photos on the internet whilst sitting under my electric blanket, wrapped up in a hoodie and scarf since that's as close as I want to get to the real thing.
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I swore I would never spend another winter in Colorado, and so far, success. But I am now learning that I will never spend another winter in Los Angeles. I can't believe I fell for it! Maybe that's why there are so many blondes in California, they are too dumb to leave the cold.